Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Where I've Been...Moving!

   For the last 2 weeks Alan and I've been in the process of moving house. We sold one house, bought a new house, and have been doing what seems like back-to back-escrow closing for the last 4 days. We have signed our names what seems like a zillion times on a stack of documents. (Things/rules have changed since we last bought a house years ago). We have been without cable, internet or phone for the last 3 days and finally got put online this morning. So here I am!
   We have a massive garden both in front and back in the new house. We're going to be be doing some serious vegetable growing in the back and working to preserve the beauty and still xeroscape in the front. Yes, there will be chickens.The current kitchen is going to be history so I'll be doing all my cooking at a friends house until my set up is done.
   We're very happy with the new place. We're down from the hills and actually in town now. We can walk to The Plaza which comes in handy during tourist season parking madness. It's a beautiful house with lots more room to spread out. We're living in one of the guest rooms right now.

And yes, we have a lot of Kleenex as my sister-in-law pointed out all the way from new York City.

   Our office is set up, so we can sleep, bathe, and hopefully get some work done amidst picking paint colors. My tendency has been  to always paint everything white, but that seems to be out of fashion now so, to the color wheel! I have yet to find where I put the detergent, and I just finally found Alans' laundry hamper so I suppose the soap can't be too far behind. In short we are in controlled chaos here but it's getting easier every day.
   I had some friends fill in for me during the last two weeks and I want to thank them for all their help. I think I still have one more guest post coming in. Meanwhile I'm sure more of my pots and pans will reveal themselves and I look forward to getting back behind some sort of stove again.

   Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes. It's been a long hard slog through the last three years, and it seemed that every time we set out to find a place some family crisis called a halt to things. Oddly enough the house we bought was the second house we looked at, waaay back when. It went off the market and then came back on just as we were ready to move, so I suppose we're supposed to be here. Funny how things work out.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Guest Post from Erin Jimcosky (aka The Hungry Mutineer) Editor in Chief of the new CRAFT Magazine : Asparagus Cheddar Soup

   Just sitting here waiting for the first wave of moving vans to arrive, we're doing the final part of the move out next week. Today is all about Deep Storage. Yes, that sounds like the title of some weird Michael Bay movie or perhaps a spin off of Storage Wars. Either way, we are in the house for another few days but the kitchen is in boxes. Until we complete the move there is no cooking going on around here.
   I sent up the flare guns a couple of weeks ago when I started appreciating the scope of this migration, and am happy and grateful to present this offering from my good friend and former Sonoma County resident Erin Jimcosky (she went through this whole moving thing last year). Erin is the Editor in Chief of the new magazine Craft which is debuting this June, and Alan and I have enjoyed many a fine dining experience here in Sonoma with her and her husband photographer Phil Jimcosky. Just looking at this delicious recipe this foggy morning, and seeing all the fresh asparagus out there in the markets makes me want to get into my kitchen...oh wait I can't. But you can!! Lucky you.

 Asparagus & Cheddar Soup

Spring has sprung and it is this time of year that a food writer’s fancy turns to thoughts of the year’s first farmer’s markets, ramps, and of course asparagus. This food writer also happens to be in the process of building a new startup magazine, so thoughts of contributor deadlines, graphic design, and finishing that darn media kit tend to smother the more pleasant edible thoughts. In other words, if I want to savor the delights of the season, I had better do it quickly like with this Asparagus & Cheddar Soup, because something that needs my attention now is coming down the pipe.

I am from the Pacific Northwest, where we grow spectacular asparagus. You can imagine my joy in finding that we have incredible asparagus here at my temporary home here in the D.C. Metro Area. I have been going through them like crazy since making this discovery, buying them by the Prius load, and enjoying every last bite in as simple a fashion as possible.

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that need little adornment since nature did such a bang up job in the soil. The nutty, herbaceous, and green flavors are so distinctive you’d have to forage for fiddlehead ferns to find its equal. My Asparagus & Cheddar Soup is a tasty way to enjoy this treat while keeping it relatively simple. All you need is a little time to properly sweat the onions and asparagus, and you’re practically home free. If you are as busy as I seem to be these days be sure to step away from your computer or phone while you enjoy this decadent soup.

Asparagus & Cheddar Soup

2 TBS. butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove
2 TBS. all-purpose flour
1 asparagus bunch, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 c. chicken stock
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, at room temp, shredded
Croutons, to garnish

Sweat the onions in the butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat with the lid on and a little salt until they are translucent. Add in the asparagus and continue to sweat until they are cooked throughout. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring to coat and allow it to cook for a little longer. Add the mixture to the pitcher of a blender with 1 cup of the stock and puree until smooth.

Pour the mixture back in the pot and add in the remaining stock, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and add in the cheese, stirring constantly. Serve immediately topped with croutons and a sprinkle of pepper.

Serves 4 as a starter.

Erin Jimcosky is the Editor in Chief for CRAFT magazine, which debuts in June of 2014. In her spare time she is a freelance food and travel writer and pens the Hungry Mutineer column in Mutineer Magazine. When she isn’t in the glued to her computer, she can be found in the kitchen and working in her garden.
Follow her on Twitter @hungrymutineer.
Phil Jimcosky has done everything from food and product photography for Mutineer Magazine, Anchor Distilling, St. Suprey, and Greater Purpose Wine to location shoots in Spain, but his real love is in photojournalism. When he isn’t in his home studio he can be found chasing down the perfect image on the streets of Washington DC.
Check him out at:
Follow him of Twitter @@foodaperture

Friday, April 4, 2014

Guest Post: Pamela Timms of Eat And Dust, Mulberry and Lemon Yogurt Cake

   We are on the move here in Sonoma. Not leaving town, but moving in closer. We've come down from our hill and have bought a house in town, closer to the action. My entire kitchen has been packed up, the larder emptied, boxes and paper strewn everywhere, in short I am in cooking jail. No cooking for me. So, I've decided not to tough it out and make chapatis over a pile of burning cardboard boxes (don't dare me, I will do it) instead I've reached out to some friends for help and they've kindly offered to step in and guest-host until my kitchen is back in semi working order after the next couple of weeks. I am so grateful for their wonderful recipes, and even more grateful that I don't actually have to make chapatis over a pile of burning cardboard boxes.
   Hopefully I'll be back behind a stove in the next 2 weeks, and renovation!!!  I'm already scouting stoves, and perhaps even a tandoor oven. I visited The Granary today on the way to get more boxes and am making plans for a coop and some chickens. Things will be getting very interesting around here in short order. Meanwhile, my first Guest Host is the amazing Pamela Timms from Delhi, India who writes Eat and Dust

What she does with Mulberries will delight you!

Take it away Pamela.........

Between the ages of 3 and 8 I probably sang ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush’ on average 5 times a day in the school playground.  And yet, growing up, I don’t remember ever seeing mulberry bushes, even though they’ve been around in Britain since the 17th century.

In fact, I didn’t see a mulberry until 8 years ago when we came to live in India, where they’re called shatoot and grow briefly but prolifically in April (a bit earlier than in California, I think).  Since then, the short Indian mulberry season has become a highlight of my food year, partly because it reminds me that I’m incredibly lucky to live somewhere that still has very clear (non shrink-wrapped) food seasons. 

For two weeks, just as the temperatures are starting to soar, wrinkly old women in saris sit by the side of the road selling baskets of the just-foraged fruit.   I saw these ones, prettily adorned with roses, on a pavement in Old Delhi the other day.

Usually the foragers are keen to sell off their baskets quickly as the fruit doesn't keep well – no-one is ever going to make their fortune exporting mulberries.  I can never resist anything in glut form and so we eat the fruit until we feel sick then I use what’s left in my baking.  You’ll find more of my mulberry trivia and recipes here, here and here.

This week I decided to use my surplus mulberries in a yogurt cake – easy peasy, even in my non air-conditioned Delhi kitchen which is already turning into a sauna.  The original yogurt cake recipe made the trip to India with me back in 2005 but started life on one of Scotland’s far-flung islands.   In 1975 my aunt and uncle were posted to the Isle of Skye and for a while many of their belongings, including kitchen scales and measuring cups, were still in storage. Aunty-ji (as we now refer to her since she herself made the trip to India to visit us) was frustrated at being unable to do any baking - at that time she would have been as likely to find baking equipment on the Isle of Skye as I was in Delhi in the early 2000s.  She was therefore delighted when she tuned into the Jimmy Young Programme one morning and heard a recipe for yogurt cake which called for nothing except an empty yogurt pot.

Auntyji’s cake is a moist, no-frills, never-let-you-down, little black dress of a cake. You can take it anywhere, dress it up, dress it down, reduce the sugar, omit eggs, and it will still be eager to please. In its unadorned 1970s form, it’s a soothing slice to accompany a cup of tea but if you treat it like a lady and shower it with fruit and frosting it turns into a showstopper.   This mulberry and lemon yogurt cake is for Kathy who has been having a tough few months.  Of course, Kathy, you’re going to have to come to Delhi to taste it – but the spare room’s ready too!

Mulberry and Lemon Yogurt Cake

For the cake:
1 small (200ml) pot of natural yogurt – then use the cleaned and dried pot to measure everything else:
2 pots caster sugar
3 eggs
1 pot sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 pots plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
200g fresh raspberries or other soft fruit
For the frosting:
2 pots icing sugar
2 pots of mulberries, de-stalked
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A few extra mulberries to decorate

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Grease a ring mould (my aunt always makes her yogurt cake in a loaf tin so that’s another option).
In a bowl, mix the yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla essence, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat the mixture well until smooth. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the wet until everything is well incorporated. Pour half the mixture into the tin, sprinkle in half a pot of mulberries then cover with the remaining mixture then finish with another half pot of mulberries.  Bake for about 30-45 minutes until the top is well risen and browned and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Leave the cake in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a baking rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and crush in enough mulberries to make a thick but spreadable frosting.  When the cake is cool, spread the frosting over the surface and decorate with a few whole mulberries.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Mystery Of One of The World's Best Bar Snacks, Chicken '65!! Gluten Free.

   Lately our life has been centered mainly around packing. We sold my parents house and now we're involved in the hunt for something for ourselves, and that's all I'm saying about that. If I think about things too much I'll start feeling  like this:  

So, moving on, I was delighted to get an email the other day from my friend Irving Ong in LA. We're always amused by the ways various cultures translate other group's dishes. Irving is particularly fascinated by Indo-Chinese food. Nearly every Indian regional cookbook has a section dedicated to Indo Chinese recipes, particularly Gobi Manchuria. Now Irving puzzling over the origins of Gobi Manchuria (a great favorite with Indian friends in LA) led to a discussion of another legendary dish, the legendary Chicken '65. Yes, it does sound like a minus third rate poultry-oriented spy flick from the days of go-go boots and beehives.

    No one seems to know where Chicken '65 originated, the legends are legion. What does the 65 mean? The year the dish was created? The address of the restaurant where it was first served? The Number of spices in the dish? The number listing the dish on an unreadable menu? Who knows. What I do know is the dish is HUGELY popular and that's not an understatement. Irving told me that it was something that I simply had to try. Karan, Suvi, Shreyas, all sent word from LA, I had to make this dish. I would not regret it.

   Easier said than done. Besides all the legends surrounding the dish, the number of recipes for it are equally long. After trawling the internet looking for clues, I finally decided on one that seemed to fit the bill from The Tiffin Box. Straightforward, simple, and above all fast because with all the boxes and wrapping going on around here I don't exactly have time for slow food right now.

Chicken '65

Here's What You Need:
2 lb chicken breasts, or chicken thigh meat
oil for deep frying

1 Tbs Kashmiri chili (if you can't find that use an equal mix of paprika and cayenne)
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 inch piece of finely chopped ginger
2 shallots or  garlic cloves finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground coriander
salt to taste

5 Tbs gluten free cornstarch
2 Tbs sorghum flour (gluten free)
1 Tbs rice flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg beaten

Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup thick yogurt
1 Tbs Kashmiri chili
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs oil
2 shallots or garlic cloves finely chopped
1 inch piece of finely chopped ginger
salt to taste
pinch of sugar
fresh chopped cilantro

Here's What To Do:
Cut the chicken into bite size pieces.
Set it aside.
Mix together the marinade mix.
Add the coriander to the Kashmiri chili...

...and the finely ground fresh ginger and shallot.

Pour the marinade into the bowl of chicken bites.

Mix everything together well.

Pour in the lemon juice.

Stir things up well , salt to taste, and set it aside in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

While the chicken is chilling, mix together the gluten free coating.

Beat the egg and set it aside in a separate bowl.
Meanwhile prep the yogurt sauce.
Mix together the shallot, and ginger.

In a separate bowl whip the yogurt, add in the Kashmiri chili, lemon juice and spices. Set it aside.
Pour the oil into a deep pot, wok or kadhai. Bring it to 350 degrees.
When the oil is hot dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture.

Dredge the chicken in the coating and plop it into the hot oil. I cooked the chicken in batches of 4 or 5 pieces.
Cook each batch of chicken for about 6 minutes.
As they cook place them on a paper towel covered plate to drain.

Here is where the paths diverge on Chicken '65. Some people prefer to fry their chicken and then use the yogurt as a spicy dipping sauce. This recipe is a bit different. The yogurt sauce is heated and the chicken put back in until the yogurt is absorbed. Here's how that works.

Heat 3 Tbs of oil in a skillet or wok.
When the oil is hot toss in the chopped ginger, shallot or garlic and stir fry everything for about 30 seconds.
Add the friend chicken pieces to the pan, then add the seasoned yogurt to everything.

Stir the yogurt mixture into the pan and mix everything together well.

When the yogurt is absorbed into the chicken it's done.
Plate it, sprinkle it with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and serve it up!

   The important thing to look out for in this recipe, is not letting the crispy coating become un-crispy and peeling off while heating the chicken in the yogurt sauce. It worked fine for us, but I think next time I may save myself a roller coaster ride and just serve the spiced yogurt sauce on the side for dipping. So there you have it, the mystery dish, from the mystery place, that's loved throughout India. Sometimes you have to stop wondering about where something comes from and just shut up and eat it, which is what we did.

Coming up next, something a bit different. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Saturday, March 15, 2014

#Muffin Madness, The Other March Madness. It's The Berries.

blackberry muffins

   So around here we're in packing up mode, selling and moving madness. It also happens to be March, home to another sort of madness and no, I'm not talking basketball. No brackets here. Nobody here but the berries since I was informed that March is also known as #MuffinMadness.  At least that's what the people at Driscolls Berries told me. March is also my birthday month, (older is better than the alternative) so I'm at about the max on stress around here. If stuff gets a little but madder, who am I to complain?

   I was asked by the Dricolls people to create a muffin using some of their berries. They even sent me some berry coupons so I could do this, but I'd already bought my own Driscoll Blackberries, so I was all set to go.

   In Northern California, blackberries run rampant all during the summer months, and we've been surrounded by them every year since we've been living in Sonoma. But, even when the berries are available plentifully, we find ourselves engaged in a running battle with the racoons, the deer and the birds over who gets them first and we don't always win. This is where Driscoll comes in. In the battle for natural berry supremacy, Driscoll insures we (the humans ) have a shot.
   I don't bake muffins very often but I have a favorite Italian polenta cake recipe from the region in Tuscany where my family originates. I tweaked it a little and came up with something that I thought would make a great muffin for breakfast, dessert, tea, or any other time.

Blackberry Rosemary Corn Muffins

Here's What You Need:
3 sprigs of rosemary
1/3 cup of chopped rosemary
1 stick of unsalted butter
2  whole eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 cup fine cornmeal flour
3/4 cup of flour
3/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup of whole milk
1 pint fresh blackberries
3/4 cup of water
3/4 cup of sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice

Here's What To Do: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl add:
  1 stick of unsalted butter
  1 cup of sugar
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric beater.

When it's nice and fluffy add in:
1 cup of fine cornmeal flour, 3/4 cup of all purpose flour, 3/4 tsp of salt,1 tsp of baking powder...

...2 large eggs...

...and 1 egg yolk...

Add in the milk.

Beat the cake batter with an electric beater on the high setting for about 3 minutes. It will turn yellow.
Finely chop 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Add the chopped rosemary to the batter.

Mix it in well.
Add the fresh berries to the batter...

Fold them in carefully so you don't mash them.

Place paper muffin cups into a muffin tray.

Fill the muffin cups part way, the muffins will rise.

Pop the muffins into the center of the oven and bake them for 40 minutes.
While the muffins are baking: Chop more rosemary until you have 1/3 cup of it.
Add it to a small pan along with  3/4 cup of water and 3/4 cup of sugar.
Stir everything together well on medium heat until it comes to a simmer.

Then turn the heat down, and let it gently simmer for 10 minutes.
Then take it off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Strain the mixture through a sieve and pour it into a measuring cup.
Set it aside.
Take the muffins come out of the oven, when they're firm and golden.

Brush the tops with the rosemary syrup.

Let the syrup soak in and then brush them again.
Take the muffins out of the pan and let them cool on a baking sheet.
Serve them up and enjoy!

   Sweet with the rosemary sugar glaze and plump with fresh Driscoll Blackberries, these muffins go great with coffee, tea or milk. Serve them with butter or with a nice dab of goat cheese. Coming up next, it's Holi time again and colors aren't the only things flying through the air. A quick and easy Holi dessert can put anyone in a celebratory mood. Follow along on Twitter at @kathygori

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Where I'm At. Ring Out The Old, Ring In....Whatever.

   For the last 2 months we've been involved in the process of cleaning out my parents house, renovating it and putting it on the market, and thus I have found myself living in my own episode of The Property Brothers. Don't get me wrong, the house is in great shape and has always been well maintained with a new roof, water heater etc. The decor however is another story. That has not changed since 1981. So we have been busy dealing with Kelly green carpeting all over everything, wood-like linoleum, fake butcher block and wall paper! Lots of wall paper! Let's also not forget the "gold" fixtures. Now this is not my childhood home I'm talking about. That was an attached row-house in San Francisco (a whole other story). This is the house my parents lived in in Sonoma for the last 30+ years, the house where Fran indulged her taste for Vegas fixtures and a bad Frog jones. Also Greenstamps stuff. Does anyone remember Green Stamps?

Stores gave them to one when one shopped, and then they're be pasted in a book and shoved in the kitchen drawer next to the Stove Manual with a big thick rubber band around it. When one had enough of these books, one could go to a Green Stamps Outlet and get say... a china Mallard...

 ...or table lamps.

Not kidding. My parents had some fairly space-age ones with feathered lampshades  that I'm sure are gracing some hipster's house right now. I'm just old enough that they might be considered my own bad taste. Better they went to a loving home.
   So that was what was. Meanwhile we have been dealing with bringing the place into the 21st century kicking and screaming. We've added dual pane windows, and environmentally correct, energy saving appliances and low flow toilets. TMI? We cut the door from the inside of the house to the garage/laundry room that Fran never would. We put in hardwood floors, slate tiles and a gas stove. Fran, who hated anything to do with cooking would have loved it. Not.
   In the middle of this process we are also changing houses, or attempting to. We've made an offer on a new house here in Sonoma and  hopefully we'll get it (fingers crossed) and so everything is up in the air, change partners, rinse and repeat. If we get the house we want, we will be looking at more renovations but at least we now have some recent practice. We haven't renovated anything since our place in LA and that was 20 yrs ago. Either way it is Earth in Upheaval around here, nothing new after these last three years. I am trying to just take it as it comes and relax in the middle of house chaos and moving boxes.
   I'm laying all this out there to explain why I've not been cooking as much. You see I've been spending most of my days at Home Depot, Teevax, and Friedmans Home Improvement. But my parent's house is now finished and I'll be getting back behind the stove tomorrow, just in time for some Muffin Madness and Holi recipes. Meanwhile if anyone wants to know about flooring or dishwasher aerators see me in Aisle 6.

Friday, February 28, 2014

My Sonoma's Top 5, #MyHometownGuide

    First, thanks to the people at Fiji Water who've sponsored this post. You can participate in the #myhometown competition by submitting your own photos on Instagram or Twitter with hashtag #myhometownguide.

   I'm so glad to have the opportunity to share my hometown of Sonoma with you! For years we dreamed of living in Sonoma. Every chance Alan and I got, we'd leave our house in Santa Monica, take whatever script we were working on at the time and head north to Wine Country. I grew up 50 miles from here In San Francisco. As a kid, I spent my summers in Sonoma County at the Russian River, a place where nearly every other blue collar family from the city went on vacation. It took me longer to get around to rediscovering  Sonoma however. That happened after my parents moved from San Francisco and bought a house here. Alan and I started coming up for Christmases, and Thanksgiving, and before long we were hooked.

   Since we're screenwriters and have always worked from home, we're fortunate enough to be able to live anywhere with an internet connection. So about 5 years ago, while staring at our office wall in Santa Monica we thought, hey, we can stare at an office wall in Sonoma. It'll be just the same except when we go outside there'll be this:

And this:

It was a total no brainer, we moved. If you're not familiar with it, the town of Sonoma is smack in the heart of California's Wine Country.

It's home to some of the greatest wineries in the world No wonder Sonoma is  the number 1 wine destination in the country. It's not uncommon to find signs like this on the street corners.

Sonomas City Hall is located in the center of the Sonoma Plaza, the largest plaza in the state.

The Plaza is the center of Sonoma and a reminder of my town's start as the capital of Mexico's Alta California, and later the capital of the short lived Bear Flag Republic. You've probably heard Sonoma's  close knit. We like to hang out together, especially at the Tuesday night Farmers Market.

The Natives are friendly.

There's something for everyone.

In short, we're a sleepy little town.

 Yeah, sure we are. One thing's for certain, Sonoma likes to party, and everybody's invited.

   Even though we're known for our wine we're also a foodies paradise. Farm fresh, sustainable agriculture is the name of the game here. Artisanal meats and cheeses, the freshest fruits and vegetables in season because after all, nothing goes better with wine than food. Whenever someone asks  me where to go and what to do here there's always so much, it's hard to narrow things down, but if I had to make a short list here are my Top 5 Places To Go in Sonoma.

#1 The Basque Boulangerie

Because coffee in the morning is about more than coffee, if you get my drift.

Always buzzing, The Basque Boulangerie is the beating heart of Sonoma and the place the locals gather in the morning for Taylor Maid Organic coffee or tea, breakfast and the latest news.

The Boulangerie bakes their own Sonoma County Harvest Fair award winning breads, and lately have even added gluten free breads and pastries to their long list of goodies. They're open from 6 am to 6pm serving breakfast, lunch, coffee, tea, sodas and wines.

I always say every single friend I have in this town I made at the Basque, even before we moved here.The Regulars (I'm one) are friendly and always willing to give a tip to visitors, about their favorite winery or out of the way special place to go, or must see or do event happening at any given time of the year.  So start your day in Sonoma at The Basque.

#2 Sonomas Best

For the best of the Sonoma Valley all gathered together in one place.

Sonoma's Best Historic Market is situated in a 100 year old store on East Napa Street. They curate some of the best culinary items that locals produce. Mustards, olive oils, jams and jellies, they've got them.

You can pick up a sandwich and a bottle of something cold for your biking tour of the valley.

Enjoy their amazing tasting room, voted the Best Place to Buy Wine in Sonoma where
owner Tom Jenkins donates all the money from the wine tasting to Sonomas No Kill Animal Shelter Pets Lifeline.

You can also take home some delicious local CocoaPlanet Chocolate
 for "later".

Speaking of on my list...

#3 The Girl and The Fig

Sonoma's Best Brasserie located on the ground floor of the Sonoma Hotel, vintage 1880. The Girl and the Fig is like a little bit of Paris in the heart of Sonoma with their Salon de Fromage offering the finest cheeses, to the long ornately carved 19th century hotel bar...

...their dining garden...

...but most of all their Hamburger, which I consider the best in town! If you're in Sonoma and want a burger, run do not walk to this place. Get it on their home baked Dutch Crunch Roll, with Cambazola cheese, pickled onions, and either frittes or a side salad, you will not be sorry. Seriously. I promise you. There are also great alternatives there for vegans or vegetarians .

(Photograph by Steven Krause)

 If a Hamburger is not your idea of lunch or you crave something very Sonoma remember this was once the Northern Capital of Mexico which brings me to my next selection.

#4 El Molino Central

   If Mexican food is your thing , and it's most definitely mine you will love this place. First, everyday they stone grind their own organic corn which is grown in Nebraska by Bernard Ferrigan. They're old school, using stones, corn, and water. That's it. If you want to watch, get there at 11:00 am. the public is welcome. Then grab some of those fresh hot tortillas for yourself in the form of tamales...

...and any number of other dishes including their 18 ingredient Oaxacan chicken mole, made from scratch.

Get there early and often!

My personal favorite is the Pumpkin Tamales and the Chicken Mole Poblano Tamales in Banana Leaf. If you're looking for breakfast and want Guajilo Chile Chilaquiles get there before 11:00 am, you won't be sorry. The restaurant is casual, with a large parking lot in front and in back. It has tented outdoor seating with heaters, there is no seating inside. The food can be taken away and there is also a selection of some chilled items to reheat at home.
 And finally

#5 El Dorado Kitchen

The El Dorado Kitchen is located right off the plaza in the landmark elegantly renovated El Dorado Hotel. If you want seasonal, locally sourced amazingly prepared food this is where I send you.

Executive Chef Armando Navarro, trained under  some of the best chefs at Le Bernardin, Jean Georges and Daniel Boulud. He returned to California and worked at Jardiniere and Masa's before relocating to Redd in Yountville as the Chef de Cuisine. Now Sonoma's got him! I love this guy's food. Here's why.

This is the Roasted Young Beet Salad- goat cheese mousse, citrus segments, granny-smith apple, watercress, arugula, candied pistachio, beet foam, citrus vinaigrette.

Organic Petaluma Chicken- olive oil smashed potatoes, Scottish egg, piperade chicken jus.

(Food photographs courtesy of El Dorado Kitchen)

Seared Scallops - Delta asparagus, cauliflower, bacon, caper-raisin sauce, asparagus puree, balsamic. See what I'm talking about? This is why it's our go to place for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentines Day, or what the hell, any time we want a fabulous meal!

   As to the places that originally made Sonoma famous, the Wineries . I asked around and here are some recommendations from the locals. Patz & Hall, Scribe, Sojurn, Kamen, Wellington Vineyards. There are dozens more and I can't name all of them but that's a start. So, this is my Sonoma. This is where we go regularly, the places we love. This is where we take our friends when they come to town. I hope you'll come visit us too.

   Show us your favorite spots to eat, stay and play in your hometown and win a getaway to any of the US cities featured in Earth’s Finest City Guide! To participate, just upload an image of your favorite spot in your hometown to Twitter or Instagram with hashtag #myhometownguide and tell us where you live and what makes the image special and you will be entered to win automatically.


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